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Watch now: John Walsh to put national focus on Summer Wells case

By RICK WAGNER

In Pursuit with John Walsh,” a television show airing Wednesday, will put a nationwide focus on the case of missing 5-year-old Summer Wells of Hawkins County.

A shareable video segment, which will be featured in the program, is at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1eEU-nNdRtIr_mPXCVNH6DcDqJ9tSBB/view?usp=sharing.

The show to air at 10 p.m. on Investigation Discovery and streaming on discovery+ will feature a segment on Summer, who disappeared in mid-June from her family’s home on Ben Hill Road in the rural Beech Creek community near the Sullivan County line.

The announcement of the show segment Friday comes a day after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office issued a video about the case on Twitter.

Officials said the case is still very much active and that authorities know more than they are saying publicly in an effort to protect the integrity of the investigation.

Additionally, Sheriff Ronnie Lawson and TBI spokeswoman Leslie Earhart urged people not to pass along social media misinformation and speculation as legitimate tips.

Summer was last seen at her home June 15.

She is 3 feet tall, weighs about 40 pounds and has blond hair and blue eyes.

Police are also seeking a potential witness, believed to have been driving a late 1990s maroon or red Toyota Tacoma with a ladder rack and white buckets in the bed.

Anyone with information about the disappearance of Summer can text or call the show’s hotline.

“Please feel free to share the photo and video as needed,” a news release from the show said. “We are encouraging any viewers with any information on Summer’s whereabouts to call or text us at 1 (833) 3-PURSUE or to submit online at our dedicated hub at InPursuitTips.com. These resources are both staffed by trained operators who will accept anonymous tips and alert the proper authorities.”

Anyone who has seen Summer or has information on her whereabouts also may call the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office at (423) 272-7121 or the TBI at 1 (800) TBI-FIND.

The news release from the show said the most important tool to help recover a missing child is sharing photos of that child.

In the initial days and weeks after her disappearance, law enforcement from throughout the region helped comb the rural, mountainous terrain around the Wells home. At one point more than 1,000 people searched for her over 14 days.

Tennessee Child Protective Services took Summer’s two brothers away from the parents in late July for a reason not specified.

The Walsh show has a twofold mission: to track down fugitives and find missing children.

In partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the series will also feature two missing children each hour, providing age-progression photos and descriptions in the hopes that viewers can provide new leads to their whereabouts.

Try the Kingsport Times News app today. Download here from Google Play and the App Store.


Kingsport breaks ground on new skate park

By MATTHEW LANE

KINGSPORT — Kingsport officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Scott Adams Memorial Skate Park Friday afternoon.

The park will be built at Brickyard Park, across from the ball fields and will be roughly the same size as the old one at Cloud Park. It will have modern features, be made from more durable materials, and offer better flow for skaters and bikers.

The reason the skate park is moving to Brickyard is because Domtar needed the land at Cloud for its $300 million renovation project currently underway.

In exchange, Kingsport received the 40-acre Cement Hill property from Domtar, and the company kicked in $500,000 toward the construction of the new skate park.

City Manager Chris McCartt said the new skate park should be completed in the spring of 2022. McCartt noted that the design phase of a planned pump track (located adjacent to the skate park) will soon be underway.

Kingsport’s skate park opened in November 2005 and is named after Scott Adams, a 13-year-old who was struck by a car while retrieving his skateboard on Stone Drive.

The Adams family, in coordination with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, created the skate park at Cloud Park in his honor.


News
Victims of Violent Crimes Memorial planned for Sullivan County

By J.H. OSBORNE

BLOUNTVILLE — Joan Berry, Debbie Locke, and District Attorney General Barry Staubus unveiled plans Friday for a Sullivan County Victims of Violent Crimes Memorial to be funded through donations and installed in front of the Blountville Justice Center.

Berry, whose daughter Johnia Berry was murdered in 2007, is a member of HOPE for Victims, a nonprofit organization leading the fundraising effort to pay for the memorial.

Berry noted that Sept. 25 is National Remembrance Day for Murder Victims, deemed an annual event by Congress in 2007.

The planned memorial will show the families and friends of those lost to violent crime that neither they nor their loved ones have been forgotten and are supported by the community, Berry said.

“I’m speaking from the heart when I tell you what it does to your family and your life when you lose a loved one to violent crime,” Berry said. “It leaves a hole in your heart that’s there forever.”

The goal of the fundraising effort is to reach at least $8,500 in donations. That will cover the cost of the granite for three columns (a center 6-foot one, flanked by two 5-foot ones) to be engraved with the names of victims.

Staubus said he is confident the effort will succeed, citing the “graciousness” of the people of Sullivan County.

“The victims of Sullivan County deserve a memorial,” Staubus said.

Berry said the estimated completion date is April 2022, and names on the memorial will be updated annually on or near National Remembrance Day for Murder Victims.

Locke, whose husband, Mike, was killed by a hit-and-run repeat-offense drunk driver, said the memorial will serve as a symbol of hope and community support for those who have lost family, friends or co-workers to violent crime.

“It shows we have not forgotten their silenced voices and we will continue to advocate for their justice,” Locke said. “Those of us left will have a place to go remember and reflect. We are not alone in all of this. Let’s make this beautiful memorial a reality.”


National
AP
GOP review finds no proof Arizona election stolen from Trump

By BOB CHRISTIE and CHRISTINA A. CASSIDY

PHOENIX — A Republican-backed review of the 2020 presidential election in Arizona’s largest county ended Friday without producing proof to support former President Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen election.

After six months of searching for evidence of fraud, the firm hired by Republican lawmakers issued a report that experts described as riddled with errors, bias and flawed methodology. Still, even that partisan review came up with a vote tally that would not have altered the outcome, finding that Biden won by 360 more votes than the official results certified last year.

The finding was an embarrassing end to a widely criticized, and at times bizarre, quest to prove allegations that election officials and courts have rejected. It has no bearing on the final, certified results. Previous reviews by nonpartisan professionals that followed state law have found no significant problem with the vote count in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix.

Still, for many critics, the conclusions reached by the firm Cyber Ninjas and presented at a hearing Friday, underscored the dangerous futility of the exercise, which has helped fuel skepticism about the validity of the 2020 election and spawned copycat audits nationwide.

“We haven’t learned anything new,” said Matt Masterson, a top U.S. election security official in the Trump administration.

“What we have learned from all this is that the Ninjas were paid millions of dollars, politicians raised millions of dollars and Americans’ trust in democracy is lower.”

Other critics said the true purpose of the audit may have already succeeded. It spread complex allegations about ballot irregularities and software issues, fueling doubts about elections, said Adrian Fontes, a Democrat who oversaw the Maricopa County election office last year.

“They are trying to scare people into doubting the system is actually working,” he said. “That is their motive. They want to destroy public confidence in our systems.”

The review was authorized by the Republican-controlled state Senate, which subpoenaed the election records from Maricopa County and selected the inexperienced, pro-Trump auditors. On Friday, Senate President Karen Fann sent a letter to Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich, urging him to investigate issues the report flagged. However, she noted the review found the official count matched the ballots.

“This is the most important and encouraging finding of the audit,” Fann wrote.

Trump issued statements Friday falsely claiming the results demonstrated “fraud.”

Despite being widely pilloried, the Arizona review has become a model that Trump supporters are pushing to replicate in other swing states where Biden won. Pennsylvania’s Democratic attorney general sued Thursday to block a GOP-issued subpoena for a wide array of election materials. In Wisconsin, a retired conservative state Supreme Court justice is leading a Republican-ordered investigation into the 2020 election, and this week threatened to subpoena election officials who don’t comply.

None of the reviews can change Biden’s victory, which was certified by officials in each of the swing states he won and by Congress on Jan. 6 — after Trump’s supporters, fueled by the same false charges that generated the audits, stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to prevent certification of his loss.

The Arizona report claims a number of shortcomings in election procedures and suggested the final tally still could not be relied upon. Several were challenged by election experts, while members of the Republican-led county Board of Supervisors, which oversees elections, disputed claims on Twitter.

“Unfortunately, the report is also littered with errors & faulty conclusions about how Maricopa County conducted the 2020 General Election,” county officials tweeted.

Election officials say that’s because the review team is biased, ignored the detailed vote-counting procedures in Arizona law and had no experience in the complex field of election audits.

Two of the report’s recommendations stood out because they showed its authors misunderstood election procedures — that there should be paper ballot backups and that voting machines should not be connected to the internet. All Maricopa ballots are already paper, with machines only used to tabulate the votes, and those tabulators are not connected to the internet.

The review also checked the names of voters against a commercial database, finding 23,344 reported moving before ballots went out in October. While the review suggests something improper, election officials note that voters like college students, those who own vacation homes or military members can move to temporary locations while still legally voting at the address where they are registered.

“A competent reviewer of an election would not make a claim like that,” said Trey Grayson, a former Republican secretary of state in Kentucky.

The election review was run by Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, whose firm has never conducted an election audit before. Logan previously worked with attorneys and Trump supporters trying to overturn the 2020 election and appeared in a film questioning the results of the contest while the ballot review was ongoing.

Logan and others involved with the review presented their findings to two Arizona senators Friday. It kicked off with Shiva Ayyadurai, a COVID-19 vaccine skeptic who claims to have invented email, presenting an analysis relying on “pattern recognition” that flagged purported anomalies in the way mail ballots were processed at the end of the election.

Maricopa County tweeted that the pattern was simply the election office following state law.

“‘Anomaly’ seems to be another way of saying the Senate’s contractors don’t understand election processes,” the county posted during the testimony.

Logan followed up by acknowledging “the ballots that were provided for us to count ... very accurately correlated with the official canvass.” He then continued to flag statistical discrepancies — including the voters who moved — that he said merited further investigation.

The review has a history of exploring outlandish conspiracy theories, dedicating time to checking for bamboo fibers on ballots to see if they were secretly shipped in from Asia. It’s also served as a content-generation machine for Trump’s effort to sow skepticism about his loss, pumping out misleading and out-of-context information that the former president circulates long after it’s been debunked.

In July, for example, Logan laid out a series of claims stemming from his misunderstanding of the election data he was analyzing, including that 74,000 mail ballots were recorded as received but not sent. Trump repeatedly amplified the claims. Logan had compared two databases that track different things.

Arizona’s Senate agreed to spend $150,000 on the review, plus security and facility costs. That pales in comparison to the nearly $5.7 million contributed as of late July by Trump allies.

Maricopa County’s official vote count was conducted in front of bipartisan observers, as were legally required audits meant to ensure voting machines work properly. A partial hand-count spot check found a perfect match.

Two extra post-election reviews by federally certified election experts also found no evidence that voting machines switched votes or were connected to the internet. The county Board of Supervisors commissioned the extraordinary reviews in an effort to prove to Trump backers that there were no problems.

———

Cassidy reported from Atlanta. Associated Press writers Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix and Nicholas Riccardi in Denver contributed.


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